Val and I have made a commitment. We are vegetable farmers who are concerned about the price of food, how it is grown and bringing great food to market. To that end we have decided to eat as much from our farm as possible. This will mean choosing to eat meat only once or twice a week. We have put up a great deal of food for the winter months. We canned tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, Italian tomatoes and salsa. We pickled beets and made applesauce. We have frozen pole beans, Romanesco flat beans, haricot verts, cannellini and Hutterite beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli. We have also frozen apricots, peaches, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries for our morning smoothies. We have winter squash, garlic, potatoes and onions in our root cellar (alias garage). We have dried dozens of trays of fresh herbs to flavor our meals, along with 36 four-ounce jars of pesto. Although we choose not to be total vegetarians, we are eating many more legumes. We grow a lot of root crops and there are literally hundreds of ways to prepare them. We love any kind of roasted vegetable and I have learned new ones since coming to live on the farm.
I had thought I was pretty well versed on a large variety of foods, yet I had never had a turnip before I came here, let alone a ‘sun-choke’. Val had actually wanted me to try them several times, but for a variety of lame reasons had never got excited about it. My mistake! Sun-chokes, or Jerusalem artichokes are native to Michigan. They are tubers that develop below each plant on long runners. They are slightly nutty in flavor, similar to a walnut, and are delicious roasted, added in soups or baked in gratins. Their peel is very thin, so can be left on to keep as much of the precious tuber in tact. Just scrub them like a new potato.
We often roast veggies for dinner. This time we roasted carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga (or rutabaggie as our Minnesota neighbor calls them) onions, garlic and of course sun-chokes. I usually roast potatoes on a jelly roll pan, but I was roasting so many veggies I decided to use my roasting pan. I simply peeled (if needed) and sliced each one keeping the pieces as similar in size as possible. I preheated the oven to 425 degrees F, then put them all in the roasting pan. Next I drizzled several tablespoons of olive oil over them and tossed them with my hands to coat. Finally I sprinkled them with sea salt and chopped fresh thyme. Into the oven they went with the timer set for 20 minutes. In 20 minute intervals I would toss them with a spatula. Depending on the amount you’re roasting, this can take anywhere from 1 hour to an hour and a half. Usually the onions will start to caramelize and the vegetables brown on the edges. Veggies prepared this way can be a meal in themselves; and I have to admit I don’t really miss the meat.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” –J.R.R. Tolkien